Morning Political Note: Knots

Sanger displays a rare "voice," with a smart take on why the Middle East is particularly tough for this President: "Perhaps Mr. Bush's constant readjustments on the Middle East are so striking because he usually tends to be the most scripted of presidents and rarely changes the script. He likes to speak in certainties and contrasts, of 'good and evil,' of countries that are either 'with us or against us.'"

"[T]he divisions about what to do next are becoming increasingly apparent, even in a White House that prides itself on hiding internal dissent."

"Others note that Mr. Bush has a gut sense that Mr. Arafat, whom he has never met, is deeply untrustworthy."

"As Mr. Bush weighs those choices this week, he is also facing another debate within the conservative wing of his party, one that focuses on the question of whether he is allowing himself to be pulled into the daily management of the Mideast conflict — a charge that the conservatives leveled against President Clinton. That is the critique that cuts closest to the quick for the Bush team."

"On Friday The The Wall Street Journal 's editorial page, closely read in the White House, maintained that the Middle East 'quagmire' could distract the president from his broader war on terror. The Weekly Standard, another conservative beacon, made a parallel argument this weekend, calling the last two weeks 'amateur hour in American diplomacy' marked by a patently cynical effort to curry favor with the Saudi royal family, and thus theoretically buy a few months of relative quiet in the Middle East.'"

ABC 2004: the invisible primary: Joe Lieberman did Imus this morning, celebrating the women Huskies' NCAA win, but mostly espousing his pro-Israel views. Lieberman also said, regarding Frank Rich's weekend column, that after reading such Richian efforts, he wants to send Frank some Zantac.

He also said that he thought Frank's column was "unfair," ladling on some criticism of the tax cut and the budget, and claiming that Democrats have offered conflicting plans on the environment. Lieberman joked around with Imus on the question of whether he'll run if Gore does, but he didn't move the ball any further down the field.

He also got to tee up his Enron speech a bit. Our peek at the advanced text of the speech, as viewed from a political (dare we say 2004?) standpoint, shows that he finds that line between pushing corporate responsibility but taking care not to alienate business, helped by his trademark, politically difficult to reproach argument for better morals: "We cannot put the business ethics police on every corner that might be cut — nor would we want to. Government will never be able to legislate or regulate morals into every part of our markets. Businesspeople and businesses must do that themselves."

South Carolina's The State ran this editorial on Sunday: "U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., has staked out the center-right; House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., the center-left, with the others Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Senator John Edwards, D-N.C., and Senator John Kerry, D-Mass. — somewhere in between. Right now, Lieberman seems best poised to capitalize on the conservative political climate in South Carolina. He's a self-proclaimed moderate with strong pro-business views and an outspoken supporter of traditional values, all of which resonate well with state voters." (

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